The Apollo Theater at 80
James Brown, Jay Z, Lauryn Hill, Ray Charles – these are just some of the names to have graced the marquee at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater, which celebrates its 80th birthday on Tuesday.
Few venues have housed as many legendary figures, from Al Green to President Obama (singing Al Green.) But then again, few have achieved a status quite as legendary in its own right.
Constructed in 1914, the Hurtig and Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater, as it was then known, once kept its doors closed to African-Americans. But in the eight decades since it became the Apollo, the New York landmark has grown into a cultural epicenter, not just for black entertainers and political leaders, but for the whole nation, catapulting some of the last century’s movers and shakers from obscurity, to the stage, to the annals of history.
To celebrate its anniversary, the Apollo will host some of its most famous performers, including Gladys Knight, Natalie Cole, and Smokey Robinson. Thanks to its robust education program and enduring amateur nights, though, the audience at 253 West 125th Street hasn’t seen its last act.